The last time I spoke to Nabeel was over a year ago. He was in Baghdad. I was in New York. It wasn’t easy getting through. The directory listed a code for Baghdad, but after days of trying, all I’d got was a recorded message telling me that the number I’d dialled didn’t exist.
In the end I had to book a call with the operator. She took a while, but eventually there was a voice at the other end, speaking in the blunt, rounded Arabic of Iraq: ‘Yes? Who is it?’
Nabeel’s family had told me that he was working as an assistant in a photographer’s shop. The owner was an Iraqi and Nabeel had been working for him since 1986, when he left his village in Egypt and went to Iraq. There was a telephone in the shop and the owner was relatively kind, a relatively kind Iraqi, and he allowed Nabeel to receive calls.